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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Thomas Rivers   6 January [1865]1

Nurseries, Sawbridgeworth, Herts. | Great Eastern Railway.2

Janry 6/64

My dear Sir/

I tardily but warmly beg to thank you for the pamphlet you have recently sent me “On the sexual relations of Lythrum”3

Your minute powers of observation astonish me as does your perseverance   While reading your brochure I could not help contrasting what you do with my own impatience in my small crossing efforts4   it must have been born with you for no training would bring on such perseverance & patience

My Elms raised from three varieties of weeping elms have made nearly a foot in growth— at present they are all perfectly erect.5

I sincerely hope that your health is improving with age. for many long tedious years I was thin pale & delicate but on passing 55 I seemed to take a new hold of life & am now at 67 robust & vigorous. From the age of 30 to 55 I, although upwards of 6 feet in height, weighed only 10 stone   I now weigh 14 & I assure you I enjoy & am very grateful for my uninterrupted good health

I am My dear Sir | Yrs. very truly | Thos. Rivers

M Carrière6 has written to ask if the Nectarine has really produced a peach from seed.   I could say yes with great truth—as I have done7


Rivers misdated the letter. The date is established by the postmark.
In this and subsequent letters, the location of Rivers’s nursery is followed on the letterhead by: ‘Harlow Station is the most convenient for passengers’.
‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria. Rivers’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for the paper (see Correspondence vol. 12, Appendix III).
Rivers was noted for developing new varieties of fruit by crossing (see Journal of Horticulture n.s. 33 (1877): 342–4). CD had first written to Rivers in December 1862, requesting information on whether slight variations appeared suddenly from buds, much like ‘sports’ (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter to Thomas Rivers, 23 December [1862]). At that time, CD was beginning his draft chapter on bud-variation for Variation (Correspondence vol. 10, Appendix II). CD discussed bud-variation in peach trees in Variation 1: 340–1, 374–5.
CD had asked Rivers for information on the weeping elm (see Correspondence vol. 11, letter to Thomas Rivers, [14 February 1863]). Rivers’s observations are cited in Variation 2: 19; CD noted the weeping habits of elms and other trees as instances of ‘capricious’ inheritance.
Elie Abel Carrière.
Rivers had raised a variety of peaches from the stones of nectarines (see Gardeners’ Chronicle, 24 September 1859, p. 774, and 20 December 1862, pp. 1195–6). His results are cited in Variation 1: 340. CD had corresponded extensively with Rivers in 1863 on the relationship between peach and almond trees (see Correspondence vol. 11).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 27 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

‘Three forms of Lythrum salicaria’: On the sexual relations of the three forms of Lythrum salicaria. By Charles Darwin. [Read 16 June 1864.] Journal of the Linnean Society (Botany) 8 (1865): 169–96. [Collected papers 2: 106–31.]

Variation: The variation of animals and plants under domestication. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1868.


Thanks CD for his paper on Lythrum [Collected papers 2: 106–31].

Astonished by CD’s powers of observation and perseverance.

His elms raised from three varieties of weeping elms are doing well.

Letter details

Letter no.
Thomas Rivers
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
JA 6 65
Source of text
DAR 176: 163
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4381,” accessed on 23 February 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13